By Kevin Smith, staff writer, @KevSmith88
ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. (Oct. 19) – Throughout his life, Law Eh Soe struggled to comprehend the citizen/government struggle unfolding in his home country of Burma (also known as Myanmar), a small sovereign state in Southeast Asia.
A citizen of Rangoon, Burma, Soe’s passion for photojournalism shines through in his photos that tell stories of struggle. Now exiled to America and living in Buffalo, N.Y., Soe visits different colleges across the country telling his stories of struggle.
Soe has spent most of his life on the run, avoiding government officials due to risky photo taking during monk uprisings. He hid in friends’ houses before escaping to the U.S.
His latest venture brought him to the St. Bonaventure University campus on Tuesday afternoon where he showcased his dramatic images and small documentary titled “Click in Fear: Burma photography.”
Dean Pauline Hoffmann of the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication introduced Soe and gave a brief overview of his works in photojournalism and the stories incorporated.
“It is difficult for us in the United States to understand that the freedoms and liberties we enjoy in this country are not universal,” said Hoffmann. “Law was essentially forced to flee his country because of his photographs. I am thrilled that we are able to bring a photojournalist of Law’s stature to SBU.”
Soe’s photos depict the struggles between the people of Burma and the government as they try to reform a repressive military government. His mini documentary sent a strong message about what he witnessed during the hardships of Burma’s struggle to compromise with its government.
“I thought it was powerful message and something more people should notice,” said Richard Lee, a journalism and mass communication professor. “I tell my students all the time this is what journalism is all about and what it’s made of: the ability to tell an inspiring story.”
Soe gave a brief speech on the video and the photos portrayed in “Click in fear,” especially the legendary monk screaming and raising his arm while holding a black oval shaped like a football.
“It’s like an iron curtain in Burma; they want to block the world from seeing the country,” Law said in an interview with the Democratic Voices of Burma website. “But for me, I decided, one day I will become a photojournalist. I didn’t become a photojournalist because I was hard-working; I became a photojournalist because my heart was burning for it.”
With a new and happy life in Buffalo, Soe said he is still haunted by the people he left behind in Burma.
“Not a day goes by where I don’t think of the people in Burma,” Soe added in his presentation. “I’m filled with guilt and the urge to help them any way I can, but I know it’s impossible.”
Even with the difficulty of not being in Burma, Soe cherishes his time in America and the opportunity he has been given to travel across the country presenting photos of his past life.
“His images are very eye-opening and hard to not feel sympathy for his work,” Lee added. “Photos should always tell a story, and in this instance, he’s telling of a historical event in his home country.”
Some of Soe’s photos will be on display in the rotunda at the Quick Arts Center until Nov. 19.